Why Is It so Difficult to Find Out What Children’s Working Conditions Were Really Like in the 18th and 19th Centuries?

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Topics: Source, 19th century
In the 18th and 19th centuries many children worked in various jobs, most of which were dangerous and demanding. Nowadays laws have been put in place to stop this; however, it was not easy to change the laws surrounding children’s working conditions. One group felt strongly that the environment was too hazardous for children and yet the other disagreed. This lead to facts being exaggerated as to fit one side’s point of view and therefore sources can be biased or unreliable. It is hard to tell whether a picture or writing is true but I am carefully going to lead you through a selection of sources taking into account its background information and its content.

One of the many jobs untaken by children in this time period was working in the fields. My first source was painted by an artist called Samuel Bough in the middle of the 19th century. It shows Scottish children and their parents in the fields at harvest time. The day is bright and sunny, the usual weather for July and August. There is plenty of food and crops in a large pile. The people have time to relax and enjoy themselves, some children even flirting together. It is mainly showing adults doing only gentle work and the children talking, sitting and smiling. Altogether the picture reminds me of more of a social gathering than hard work gathering the food. The message the artist wants to give people is that life in the countryside is easy and calming. In the centre of the picture is a huge amount of food which suggests there is always a good harvest and enough food to go around. Everyone is very laid back and has relaxed body language. The majority of people are not doing any work and the main couple at the front immediately catch your eye; I think this was done intentionally so that the first thing you see are two flirty people socializing. A combination of all these points indicate that the artist was trying to show that the countryside is a lovely place to be and you will gain friends and

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